Street-end park in Annapolis, Maryland is now a micro 'Rainwater Management Facility'


ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND: The cleverest part of a redesigned street-end park in Eastport is one nobody will see.

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The city of Annapolis, a charitable foundation and a landscape architect are working together on building an underground drainage system that stops dirty rainwater from flowing into Spa Creek by filtering it and channeling the results to irrigate the tree and shrubs on the tiny site.

Once construction is finished next month, said Jim Urban, the landscape architect who is also owner of Urban Trees and Soils, visitors will hardly know the park is a rainwater management facility.

“Much of the rainwater ideas now are essentially engineering objects. They're ugly and not a functional part of the landscape,” Urban said. “We realize that if we're going to successfully integrate cleaning up rainwater, we've got to do it a way that's functional, but aesthetic also – just another part of the landscape.”

The TKF Foundation, which aims to create open spaces in the community that can be places of reflection, spearheaded the $125,000 “rainwater park” project at the end of Fourth and Severn streets, on the water's edge.

The foundation is headquartered next to the park, where the original bridge linking Eastport and downtown Annapolis existed from about 1900 to 1950. Until now, the park only consisted of pavement and a bench looking out onto Spa Creek, with one of old bridge posts at the end of the site.

TKF has partnered with the city to fund the project, giving $50,000 in what executive director Mary Wyatt called a “challenge grant,” asking the city to come up with the balance. City director of recreation and parks LeeAnn Plumer was not available yesterday.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust also gave a $5,000 grant to the Eastport Citizens Association for planting materials for the tree and garden in the park.

Urban was hired to create a design that would revamp the area, making it feel more like a park and forming an environmentally sound plan that would reduce runoff and clean up the water that does flow into the creek.

Rainwater running down Fourth Street will flow into a Round basin in the park through an opening in the curb. Here, the water will flow into another basin that consists of grasses, gravel and sand, where particles like trash, leaves, oil and other toxins will be filtered out. The purified water will then flow into a three-pipe passageway leading to a round container filled with soil and fiber mats that will wick up the water to moisten the soil and water the tree and plants growing in the container.

This process will occur whenever less than a quarter of an inch of rain falls, an amount accounting for about 80 percent of the rainstorms Annapolis usually gets. Excess from a heavier storm will drain into a dome in the basin, overflow into a raised inlet and channel into Spa Creek.

Urban began the Fourth Street design about a year ago, but has been working with similar ideas for about 10 years. His work is inspired by Herbert Dreiseitle, a German architect who has built the structures for over a decade. Rainwater parks have cropped up nationwide, but the Fourth Street model is unique because its uses rainwater to irrigate the plants, Urban said.

Construction began two months ago, and Urban conducted a tour last night of the site to show local gardeners the technology before it's covered by dirt and pavement. A sign will be put up at the park explaining the rainwater process. Volunteers will plant a sycamore tree and other forms of vegetation on the site in the fall.

“This pocket park at the end of the street has the unique idea of bringing nature into the street,” said Tom Stoner, who with his wife, Kitty, started the TKF Foundation in 1995.

TKF has also provided a bench built by inmates in the Maryland Department of Correction. Under the bench will be a waterproof journal where visitors are encouraged to write while at the park. TKF collects these journals and records the inspirational thoughts in a weekly e-mail sent to people signed up to receive the organization's newsletter. These benches and journals exist at every “sacred place” sponsored by TKF in the Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington areas.


Baltimore Sun reporter
Originally published June 22, 2007